Variations within the gene responsible for epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) may be predictive of differing outcomes between male and female patients diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. Details of the study have recently been published in the Cancer Research.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colon cancer involves the large intestine (colon). Current treatment options for colon cancer include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and biological therapies, which target the cancer cells specifically.

Epidermal growth factor receptor is a protein commonly found in colon cancer, and a common target for biological therapies. The presence of EGFR has been associated with a poor prognosis for this disease. Until recently, this prognosis was thought to be gender neutral, affecting both men and women equally.

In a recent study conducted in the United States, researchers examined the genetic makeup of EGFR and how commonly found variations within the normal EGFR gene (polymorphisms) affected survival among 318 patients who had been treated similarly for metastatic colon cancer. A combination of 177 men and 141 women were included in the study.

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  • Overall, the specific polymorphisms studied were not associated with overall survival.
  • However, when the men and women’s results were analyzed separately, the polymorphisms had opposite effects in terms of survival between the two genders

Researchers suspect that these differences may be the result of an interaction between EGFR and the male and female hormone receptors located in the tissues of the colon. These findings support further exploration into the EGFR genetic structure; such research may impact prognostic and treatment decisions between males and females.

Reference: Press, O., Zhang, W., Gordon, M., et al. Gender related survival differences associated with EGFR polymorphisms in metastatic colon cancer. Cancer Research. 2008;68:3037-3042.